LOUISVILLE — No. 1 Ballard and No. 3 Scott County got the high school basketball season off to a rousing start Monday night, with the host Bruins holding on for a 96-85 victory.
Ballard, state runner-up last season, led the Cardinals by 21 points early in the second half, but Scott County stormed back to within 85-81 in the closing minutes.
"Basically these are two of the top programs in the state of Kentucky over the last 15 to 20 years, and to have a season opener like this, win or lose, it's a great game for both of us," Bruins Coach Chris Renner said.
The big-name stars shone brightly for both teams.
Ballard senior point guard Quentin Snider, a Louisville signee and the top-rated player in the state, had 32 points, five rebounds and six steals. He hit four of six three-pointers in the first half, and 10 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Bruins' Kelan Martin, a Butler signee and rated the third best player in the state, was a difficult matchup for Scott County. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior was nimble on the perimeter and in transition, and strong inside. He had 29 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Cardinals Coach Billy Hicks scouted Ballard's scrimmage against Holmes last weekend and he said Snider and Martin "neither one hit a shot. Tonight they didn't miss. I'm never scouting again," Hicks added with a laugh.
Scott County's Trent Gilbert had a sensational opener. The 6-1 senior poured in 40 points and six rebounds. He hit six of 15 threes (four of seven in the second half), and was 12-for-13 from the foul line.
"Billy told me before the game what a great player (Gilbert) was, and he proved it tonight," Renner said. "He's a tough kid."
Teddy Ware hit four threes and had 20 points for Scott County. Austin Kindred had 12 points off the bench. Tony Martini added eight points and 13 rebounds.
The Cards' 7-foot sophomore Raekwon Long was in foul trouble most of the night and played only nine minutes. He had four points and four rebounds.
Ballard, which has beaten Scott County five years in a row, got off to a quick start and led 23-8 thanks to a rash of turnovers by the Cards.
"Ballard is so athletic and so quick, they can hit you so many ways," Hicks said. "You can't turn the ball over against them. When you do, they're off to the races."
The Bruins couldn't keep up that pace, however. They lost starter Jalen Perry to an ankle injury in the first half and he didn't return.
Ballard led by 17 at halftime, and pushed the margin to 59-38 in the third quarter. But Scott County refused to go away, and made a strong closing rush at the Bruins.
"To get up (21) and have to sustain that is tough," Renner said. "Even me as the coach is looking at the clock, thinking, 'Please clock, keep running.'"
Snider said it was a case of "getting a pretty big lead and then we relaxed and let them back in it." He also thought opening-game fatigue was a factor.
Gilbert wished Scott County had finished off its comeback, but he thought the Cards benefited anyway.
"Oh man, it was a heck of a first game, to come into an environment and play a team like that is a good experience for us," he said. "It'll help us down the road."
Ballard 96, Scott County 85
Scott County (0-1) — Gilbert 40, Ware 20, Martini 8, Murray 1, Long 4, Kindred 12.
Ballard (1-0) — Snider 32, Martin 29, Dow 11, Robinson 7, Perry 5, Wilson 4, Kovacevic 6, Douglas 2.
Scott County 17 15 22 31—85
Ballard 28 21 24 23—96
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.